Archive for the ‘College Media Convention’ Category

CMA 2018 facebook award group

Holding our Best Facebook Page (2nd Place) Award Front L to R: Annika Gordon, Hannah Sievert, Nat Rubio-Licht, Clare Desmarais, adviser Nancy Copic Back row L to R: Kyle Garcia, Connor Lorber, Sam Cushing

There’s nothing like taking seven student journalists to a media convention in New York. This year’s College Media Association conference left these Beacon staffers energized, inspired and more knowledgeable. Here are just a few of the takeaways they shared with me and the rest of The Beacon staff. (more in their own blog posts here)

Natalie Rubio-Licht, reporter:

  1. There are a lot of different ways to get the information you need to write a story. Make a list of all possible resources and reach out to as many as necessary. For example; social media posts, cell phone videos, audio, texts between students, documents, first-hand accounts, police/medical/campus reports, second-hand accounts. Do not use anonymous unless there is a real need to!
  2. Historically, there are different phases of coverage of POC (people of color): exclusionary phase, threatening issue phase, confrontation phase: creates social tension, stereotypical news selection phase. Colleges are often stuck in the stereotypical news selection phase: example, rarely report about POC outside of their holidays or heritage months
  3. There are a lot of simple mistakes that people make during interviews without actually noticing. One panel highlighted some deadly sins of interviewing, including: questions with no query, compound questions/too many at once, trigger words, too much sharing–the interview is about them, judgement in question, and closed questions that should be open.


Kyle Garcia, sports editor

  1. Focus on building a narrative–if there’s a story to be told in your story, then tell it in a compelling and meaningful way. Don’t just write facts, but instead use the facts to help supplement the bigger story.
  2. Always be observant–there are stories out there, but it’s up to you to look for them and stay vigilant.
  3. Know who you’re interviewing–There’s no formula for interviewing people that applies to everyone. Understand what kind of person you’re interviewing and let that guide your interview.

Connor Lorber, videographer:

  1. From the photo contest- Don’t be afraid to go and talk to people. Being shy can lead to great stories/photos being lost because you were too afraid to talk to someone.
  2. From the gaming guy and the Rolling Stones guy- Do what interests you. Whatever your passion is, work in that area. You will create better content when you are excited to be creating that content.
  3. From Lauren Duca- Don’t be afraid of the ‘backlash’ from doing something out of the ordinary. Traditionally, journalists don’t share their voices/brand as much as Lauren does, and while she does get a lot of death threats/criticism from voicing her opinion, she is passionate about the movement she is sharing her voice on.

Lauren Duca tweet

Annika Gordon, multimedia editor:

  1. We have to stay professional because the world out there knows and recognizes us.
  2. In interviews, ask for names and all other relevant information at beginning AND end of recording just to make sure you have it for real.
  3. Shoot everything that your sources talk about.


Claire Desmarais, reporter:


  • Research stories dealing with diversity or underrepresented groups
  • Never assume
  • Always ask: “Is this offensive? Is this the correct viewpoint?”
  • Don’t make mistakes. You lose trust with your readers from underrepresented groups


  • Body language matters— Mimic what your interviewee is doing with their body because it makes them feel more comfortable. When they lean back, you lean back because they are becoming defensive

Creative/Story Ideas:

  • Think about what makes you angry, and often times there is a story that can be puled from it
  • Talk to people during the day you wouldn’t normally talk to so you can broaden your scope and get a variety of ideas
  • Ask your friends and professors what stories they want to see written

The student photojournalist on the right got maced during a clash over the appearance of Milo Yiannopoulos at her school, University of California, Fullerton.

Hannah Sievert, editor of the Living section:

  • When writing an opinion or column, write what you would rant to your friends about when you see them at dinner, what makes you mad, what you notice, what you would naturally discuss with others.
  • Having a beat is largely about building a relationship with the person in that beat, checking in with them, having them check in with you
  • Write some stories about how we do our reporting, have viewers go behind the scenes, with explanation of who reporting was conducted through link. It encourages reader trust to see what kind of ethics we follow.

The session on using FBI strategies for interviewing was so popular, some Beacon staffers had to sit on the floor.

Sam Cushing, reporter:

  1. When taking photos with your phone for a story (ex. breaking news) make sure to clean your lens, zoom with your feet (get closer), keep an eye on exposure (make sure subject is well lit), center and focus your shot the most important element, and vary your shots. Especially for reporters without much photography experience, and usually use their phone for pictures. Also try different photo apps to optimize settings: Hipstamatic, Filmic Pro.
  2. Develop your stories before you pitch them at meetings.

Before you pitch a story, you should know:

  • Who are you interviewing, and have they agreed to talk to you?
  • Why should I (the reader) care?
  • Why does this matter?
  • Have we (The Beacon) covered this before?

For the pitch itself, highlight what you know and what you don’t know to give your editors as much information as possible to help direct you.

      3. When searching for stories, make sure to engage the community. Meet with people. Attend community events (Use Facebook and other social media to find them).Learn who/what matters to students, faculty, staff and find the story in there Ask for feedback from people you talk to or interviewGet connected – join Facebook groups, follow Instagram and Twitter pages, and ask your followers/friends for story ideas and events to attend.Work non-traditional hours, cool stuff happens on weekends and breaks.

Most of all: Be a person, connect with people and make them want to help you.

A highlight for everyone in our group was meeting up with last year’s editor-in-chief, Malika Andrews, who graduated last May and covers sports for the New York Times. Among her many exciting assignments recently: covering the Super Bowl.

Malika with NYC group 2018

2016-17 Beacon Editor-in-Chief Malika Andrews met up with our group to talk about her job at the New York Times.

Screen Shot 2018-02-07 at 12.16.49 PM


-Nancy Copic


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CMA NYC 2018 started this year for photojournalists with a two hour session regarding the rules of a photo competition. We had two full days to take and submit a photo that screamed New York City with “a moment in time” as the theme and people as the focus.

I cleared my schedule early Friday afternoon and took myself and my camera to Grand Central Terminal. I stood against a railing waiting for a moment and some people. I did not have to wait long.

Shreya and Sagar came literally spinning into view within the next 60 seconds. They were all smiles. They were oh so obviously star-crossed lovers in a magical city. When they finally noticed me, I had at least twenty shots of their dance on my SD card. They gave me their names and we parted ways.


Shreya and Sagar dancing in Grand Central Terminal.

I spotted the Austrian couple, Juergen and Sabrina Harich, by the information desk. They were of the traditional group of tourists with paper maps and questions for humans as their tools for maneuvering the city rather than Apple maps and questions for Siri. Juergen was concentrating so intently on figuring out the subway system that I am sure I could have fired off fifty shots before him noticing my presence, but Sabrina was more observant of her surroundings and stopped me at five. That fifth photo became the one I submitted for the contest.


Juergen and Sabrina Harich feeling lost in Grand Central Terminal.

I snapped a few more photos that day: an older couple and a guard pointing up at the ceiling, a man named Mohammed selling hot dogs, two construction workers taking a break, a pair of friends chatting and smoking on the street, tourists in Times Square, but I only submitted Juergen and Sabrina.

I did not win the competition, but I did not expect to. How could I have with the competition so stiff? The top three photos featured a protest turned riot, a pair of ignored homeless persons and a first kiss.

The speakers and organizers of the competition tore the photos submitted apart. Here’s what I learned was wrong with my photo of Juergen and Sabrina: the man in the bottom left-hand corner was distracting, I should have decreased my shutter speed to let the people in the background go blurry, Sabrina was looking too directly at me, and worst of all was all the dead space up above. It left me thinking that I should have submitted the photo of Shreya and Sagar.

But what I took away from the competition was not that I am a terrible photojournalist. I took away ideas for being a better Multimedia Editor for The Beacon like making the photography team take a group trip to downtown Portland to take pictures of strangers to get them comfortable with taking pictures of and talking to people. Or like basic helpful tips to improve the photography game we’ve got going on. Or like how to work with the equipment you’ve got rather than wishing for the equipment you don’t.

– Annika Gordon

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I have decided that I have exactly two top favorite memories from CMA NYC 2018. The first one is stumbling upon a very random ramen restaurant in SoHo that was too fancy and quiet for the college students that arrived there and had walls made out of stacked books. The second memory is going to a session on International Women’s Day led by three of the leaders of Michigan State University’s newspaper, The State News.

Larry Nassar was MSU’s osteopathic physician. He was the USA Gymnastics national team doctor. Most significantly, he was a child abuser and will be serving time in prison for the rest of his days for his crimes. The State News wrote over 300 articles covering the terror over the last 2 years. They went to the courtroom and stood 10 feet away from Nassar on more than one occasion. They skipped days of school working and writing to make sure their community stayed informed and they did not have much support from their school’s administration to do so. They listened to the powerful words of over 100 victims. And they admitted to the emotional toll the last 2 years had taken on them.

Rachel Fradette, Marie Weidmayer and Madison O’Connor. Those are the names of those three leaders. They are brave and strong young women.

The victims who spoke out were all brave and strong young women.

In New York City, I had the huge honor of meeting up with two former Beaconites. Malika Andrews who now works for The New York Times and Shelby Vaculin at NBC Studios. I am oh so lucky to call them incredible mentors and friends. They are both brave and strong young women.

Malika Andrews, Clare Duffy, Rachel Rippetoe, Olivia Sanchez, Hannah Siervert, and Claire Desmarais. They are the past, present, and future leaders of The Beacon. They are also brave and strong young women.

I walked up to the three editors of The State News at the end of their session. They were getting ready to leave when I told them “Thank you,” when I told them it was not lost on me that the leaders of all the work and hours put into covering the horror of Larry Nassar’s actions were women, when I told them that they were the reason we acknowledge and celebrate International Women’s Day.

What I learned on International Women’s Day at CMA NYC 2018 was this: I have been blessed to have brave and strong young women as role models and, more importantly, I will be one too.

– Annika Gordon


Shelby Vaculin recently moved to New York City to work as a page for NBC Studios.



Malika Andrews works as a reporter for The New York Times’ sports team.

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Another piece of advice from the conference that left me feeling motivated was the importance of social media branding in this day in age. When going into a career as a journalist, it is important to keep a professional twitter, instagram, and facebook that reflect where you work, are well kept and frequently updated, and have many followers. Though I knew the importance of a clean social media presence before I left for the conference, I did not know that follower count could have an impact on your chances of getting a job. Though that made me feel slightly nervous, I realized I am young, and I have time to build up that base and look of professionalism on my accounts through college and my working years. I learned this from two different sessions: “Building your College Media Brand” on Saturday and the Keynote speaker of that day, Lauren Duca, whose tweets have gotten massive attention and even gotten her freelance jobs!

-Natalie Rubio-Licht

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Though the entire conference has left me inspired and motivated, one panel I found very informative that stuck with me was “Getting the Source”, with Reuters reporter Andrew Seaman, on the excessive use of anonymity in professional journalism. In the panel, Seaman mentioned that publications like the Washington Post and the New York Times attribute quotes to sources who want to remain anonymous for reasons that do not call for it, which creates distrust between readers and the publication. Excessive anonymity also inhibits future reporting, jeopardizes relationships with sources, and is ethically and legally problematic. Unless the source has a good reason for their anonymity, such as threat of harm, then it should not be allowed. However, he gave us ways to get past dead ends when we are faced with them in our first hand sources. This includes considering our resources (asking ourselves “where else can we get the information we need?”), considering second hand sources, and utilizing documents (i.e., texts between people, police/medical reports, campus police, etc.). He also talked about ways of opening up a source during an interview. This included doing research on the subject and finding common ground, asking the hard questions upfront, and not being afraid of silence in an interview.

Outside the conference, The Beacon crew traveled around midtown and had a blast. Though I was too sick to go out on the first day of the conference, we had a lot of fun in central park, at the Museum of Modern Art and getting dinner the second night.

-Natalie Rubio-Licht

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Interviewing can be the most powerful tool in a journalist’s pocket if used correctly. This past Friday, March 9, at the annual CMA conference I got a new perspective on how to sharpen my interviewing skills.

At the conference, I attended a workshop titled “FBI Strategies for Interviewing”, where the speaker, Holly Johnson, described the tactics she’s come across both in her own experience and in interactions with law enforcement for interviewing.


Reporters often use these methods without knowing it, but consciously implementing them can really help create an understanding of the story our interviewee is trying to tell.

Thinking back, I noticed these elements at play in the tour of Democracy Now I had taken the day before. From the green room our tour group observed Amy Goodman interview guests in honor of International Women’s Day. In that broadcast, I can remember Goodman demonstrating each one of the interviewing tools Johnson talked about.

Withholding judgement allows the person you’re interviewing to feel safe in expressing what they believe without feeling the need to defend themselves. Johnson used the example of talking to a school official about a new policy, which I feel is very applicable to many stories I write. When covering rules and policies, it’s easy to resort to blind rejection. It takes effort to step back and approach a story objectively, but it’s well worth it.

Joining, as Johnson explained, is using language which shows that you see the other perspective on an issue. Joining goes hand in hand with withholding judgement, and like the later helps to create an environment where the person you’re interviewing feels comfortable expressing their views. This doesn’t necessarily mean one needs to give credence to sexist views when talking to someone about International Women’s Day, as we discussed with some of the Democracy Now staff after the broadcast. Not all views are deserving of equal coverage. Joining just means choosing your words carefully to show that you’re open to what the other person is saying.

Mirroring, as the name suggests, is reflecting another person’s body posture with your own. Leaning forward when listening, and backward when they get defensive not only shows you’re paying attention, but that you’re interested as well.

Showing curiosity and active listening make your interviewee feel heard, and encourages them to share more. If you seem disinterested in what someone is saying, they won’t be interested in telling you about it. In order to keep both you and them engaged, you, as the interviewer, need to ask questions based on their responses and not formulate the next question before they finish. Let them tell their story, and actively participate in it.

Interviewing is one of the most important skills a reporter can have. Knowing not only which questions to ask, but how to ask them gets you more information and a better story.

– Sam Cushing

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During this year’s College Media Association’s spring convention, I attended a workshop titled “How to Thrive in a TV Newsroom”, presented by Lynn Walsh. She discussed topics like:
– How to build your brand
– How to make yourself an expert
– How to engage with your audience and others in your profession
– How to perfect your pitch (picture below)
And other tips to get ahead.
Seeing this, as well as other workshops throughout the conference, made me realize that the Beacon was missing a structured broadcast.

I also attended a lecture called “The Camera in Your Pocket”, which covered the different ways to optimize your cell phone camera. These helped show me the different ways the Beacon could enhance our multimedia content.


Thanks! – Sam Cushing

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